MAFFS meets major mission milestone
By Ann Skarban, 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 29, 2012
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Department of Defense Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System C-130s reached a major mission milestone on Friday, Aug. 24, by dropping the 2 millionth gallon of retardant for the season.
MAFFS 5, assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., dropped the record breaking gallon of retardant for the season in support of the Halstead fire in Idaho, approximately three miles north of Stanley, Idaho, during its third sortie of the day.
That same day, the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard also provided aerial fire fighting support to the Halstead fire and additional MAFFS-equipped C-130s flew in support of fires in California and Oregon.
According to MAFFS' 153rd Air Expeditionary Group leadership based in Boise, Idaho, this season has become the third highest in MAFFS history for gallons dropped surpassed only by the MAFFS seasons of 1994 and 2000 when approximately 5 million gallons and 2.1 million gallons were dropped respectively.
"This has been an extremely challenging year with several large fires and severe drought conditions. Our MAFFS aircrews and aircraft maintainers have been working long hours every day to help with the initial attack and suppression of several wildland fires throughout the Western region of the country," said Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander.
MAFFS-equipped C-130s have been activated since June 25 when they were requested by the U.S. Forest Service for assistance in the Rocky Mountain area. Their first missions included fire suppression support of Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado's costliest fire in that state's history.
Throughout the 2012 season MAFFS C-130s have been flying out of a number of tanker base locations, moving MAFFS operations closer to the fires as needed.
Tanker bases in 2012 included locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho, California, Montana and Oregon supporting fires throughout the Western U.S. This year, MAFFS has supported fires in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
"The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve MAFFS aircrews and support personnel have been extremely flexible, responding to short notice changes to the MAFFS mission including tanker base relocations throughout this year," added Champlin.
Through Aug. 27, the MAFFS fleet has released more than 2,152,603 gallons of fire retardant during 899 drops on fires in 10 states.
MAFFS is a joint Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.
The U.S. Forest MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military units: The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command. This is the first year since 2008 that all four MAFFS wings have been activated simultaneously.
As a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service, MAFFS can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.